Deep tissue massage is a type of massage that aims at affecting the deeper tissue structure of the muscles. It also affects the connective tissue, known as fascia. Deep tissue massage helps with both small muscle injuries as well as chronic problems. Deep tissue massage is an excellent way to deal with a whiplash or sports injury, postural misalignment, treating spasms as well as muscle tension. During a deep tissue massage the therapist concentrates on releasing specific chronic muscle tension as well as the muscular knots, or adhesions.

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There are 58 training programs accredited by the Commission for Massage Therapy Accreditation/Approval in the United States. They provide a minimum of 500 hours of massage training. Certified therapists have graduated from these programs and passed the national certification examination for therapeutic massage. They are also required to participate in continuing education programs to keep their skills current.
Another study examined the popular claim that reflexology treatment benefits bronchial asthma. Ten weeks of active or simulated (placebo) reflexology were compared in a controlled trial of 40 outpatients with asthma. Objective lung function tests (peak flow morning and evening, and weekly spirometry at the clinic) did not change. Subjective scores (describing symptoms, beta2-inhalations and quality of life) and also bronchial sensitivity to histamine improved on both regimens, but no significant differences were found between groups receiving active or placebo reflexology. The researchers concluded that they had found no evidence that reflexology has a specific effect on asthma beyond placebo influence [16].

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Swedish massage was invented by a Swedish fencing instructor named Per Henrik Ling in the 1830s. When he was injured in the elbows, he reportedly cured himself using tapping (percussion) strokes around the affected area. He later developed the technique currently known as Swedish massage. This technique was brought to the United States from Sweden by two brothers, Dr. Charles and Dr. George Taylor in the 1850s. The specific techniques used in Swedish massage involve the application of long gliding strokes, friction, and kneading and tapping movements on the soft tissues of the body. Sometimes passive or active joint movements are also used.

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Effleurage is the most common stroke in Swedish massage. It is a free-flowing and gliding movement towards the heart, tracing the contours of the body using the palm of one or both hands. Oil is applied with this stroke to begin the first stage of massage. The therapist applies a light or medium constant pressure. This stroke is used to warm up the muscles, relax the body, calm the nerves, improve blood circulation and heart function, and improve lymphatic drainage.

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Middle-Ages: Medical knowledge, including that of massage, made its way from Rome to Persia in the Middle Ages.[citation needed] Many of Galen's manuscripts, for instance, were collected and translated by Hunayn ibn Ishaq in the 9th century. Later in the 11th century copies were translated back into Latin, and again in the 15th and 16th centuries, when they helped enlighten European scholars as to the achievements of the Ancient Greeks. This renewal of the Galenic tradition during the Renaissance played a very important part in the rise of modern science.

If you enjoy the therapeutic benefits of foot Reflexology massage, you should know that the benefits are compounded when utilized as a frequent therapy. The more you go, the healthier you feel. With a Massage Envy membership, you can enjoy these benefits as often as you'd like. Monthly dues include a one-hour massage session and unlimited additional one-hour sessions at the low membership rate­­. To make things even easier, there are hundreds of Massage Envy locations nationwide. So you can relax, rejuvenate, and continue to grow healthier wherever you go.
Connective tissue stimulation. A lot of therapists are keen on stretching connective tissues — tendons, ligaments, and layers of Saran wrap-like tissue called “fascia.” I’m not a huge fan of this style, but certainly it’s a way of generating many potent and novel sensations, which may be inherently valuable to us — another form of touch. Although “improving” the fascia itself is implausible and unproven, perhaps fascial manipulations affect bodies indirectly, just as a sailboat is affected by pulling on its rigging. People have written whole books full of speculation along these lines. So, as long as the sensations are not like skin tearing (that’s an ugly pain for sure), you might choose to tolerate this kind of massage if it seems to be helping you.

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Anyone who routinely stretches their physical limits through movement such as running, cycling, hiking, swimming, dancing, tennis and other racquet sports, strength training and aerobics can benefit from a massage. There are others who does strenuous activities in a day that is not normally classified as exercise. Examples are mothers with small children, gardeners, and others who use their bodies strenuously in their work.
Neck pain. Neck pain is tied with headaches as the second most common pain experienced by adult Americans (also 15 percent), and massage can typically help with this too. For instance, a systematic review and meta-analysis published in 2014 in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine analyzed 15 studies and found that there was “moderate evidence” that massage therapy helped provide relief.
Reflexology, also known as zone therapy, is an alternative medicine involving application of pressure to the feet and hands with specific thumb, finger, and hand techniques without the use of oil or lotion. It is based on a pseudoscientific[1] system of zones and reflex areas that purportedly reflect an image of the body on the feet and hands, with the premise that such work effects a physical change to the body.[2]

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Foot Reflexology massage can be a deeply relaxing and therapeutic modality for those suffering from plantar fasciitis, ankle injuries or even everyday work and play. At Massage Envy, your massage therapist will apply traditional Swedish and sports massage techniques to the foot, calf and upper leg. This will not only help relieve toe pain, ankle pain, plantar fasciitis and common forms of arthritis, but can also decrease stress and anxiety in the entire body. In addition, a variety of stretches can be beneficial. With pain and sensitivity in the foot, heel and calf areas, be sure to communicate your pain levels with your massage therapist during your treatment. It is also a good idea to rest after receiving the reflexology massage.
When most people think of massage, they think of Swedish. The style takes its name from a 19th-century Swedish physiologist, Per Henrik Ling, whose system of medical gymnastics included massage. Johan Georg Mezger (1838-1909) coined a reduced set of maneuvers and techniques of Dr. Ling’s system as the “Swedish massage” system. Swedish massage is defined by four or five (somewhat familiar) techniques, which have French names: effleurage (stroking), petrissage (kneading), tapotement (rhythmic choppings), and friction (rubbing). Some therapists now incorporate advanced techniques that have rehabilitating effects and stretches for improving your range of motion. But the ultimate goal is relaxation. As the default Western massage, Swedish massage is extremely popular and is simple, soothing touch therapy.
No, because most therapists will customize the pressure of their strokes to suit your requests. According to Shannon Merten, a licensed massage therapist we interviewed about massage etiquette, communication is key. “I would rather my clients leave happy and satisfied than not, so if [the therapist] is doing something that is not enjoyable, a good ‘that’s a little too much pressure’ or ‘that area is too sensitive to be worked on’ should get you satisfying results,” she says.

The American Commission for Accreditation of Reflexology Education and Training (ACARET) sets the standards for education required for the reflexology profession. It also credentials those involved with educating students of reflexology. The American Reflexology Certification Board (ARCB) has a three-part examination process to ensure the practitioner has met the standards set by the board. In order to be certified through ARCB, a minimum of 110 hands-on training hours must be completed.
Their website seems to conflate reflexology with acupuncture and acupressure. There are five tabs at the top of the home page: (1) Store, which links to a single Amazon.com page selling a reflexology foot massager, (2) Acupressure Points and (3) Reflexology Treatment, both of which have multiple articles on acupuncture and acupressure, (4) Reflexology Machines – foot massagers and acupressure mats, and (5) Courses. Notable by its absence is a tab for scientific studies showing that any of this stuff works.
Neck pain. Neck pain is tied with headaches as the second most common pain experienced by adult Americans (also 15 percent), and massage can typically help with this too. For instance, a systematic review and meta-analysis published in 2014 in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine analyzed 15 studies and found that there was “moderate evidence” that massage therapy helped provide relief.

A skilled therapist will tailor your session exactly as you need it based on your needs. As in all bodywork, the key to a gratifying experience is largely a function of good communication and clarification of objectives. We promise, we WANT you to speak up if there is anything we can do to make your session more comfortable so that you have a positive experience.


Since reflexology is not recognized by law, no formal training is required to practice reflexology or call oneself a reflexologist. However, some nurses and massage therapists offer reflexology as part of their licensed practice. Some courses are accredited for continuing education for nurses and massage therapists. The most widely publicized training source is probably the International Institute of Reflexology, of St. Petersburg, Florida, which claims to have 25,000 members worldwide [9]. Its seminar on the "Original Ingham Method of Foot Reflexology" are taught by Ingham's nephew, Dwight Byers. Its "Certified Member" status requires 200 hours of instruction plus passage of written and practical tests. As far as I know, this certification process has neither legal nor medical recognition. The Institute's Web site states:

Peer-reviewed medical research has shown that the benefits of massage include pain relief, reduced trait anxiety and depression, and temporarily reduced blood pressure, heart rate, and state of anxiety.[80] Additional testing has shown an immediate increase and expedited recovery periods for muscle performance.[81] Theories behind what massage might do include enhanced skeletal muscle regrowth and remodeling,[82] blocking nociception (gate control theory),[83] activating the parasympathetic nervous system, which may stimulate the release of endorphins and serotonin, preventing fibrosis[84] or scar tissue, increasing the flow of lymph, and improving sleep.[10][85]

Deep tissue massages are not for everyone, and it’s very important to find a well-trained therapist. If you’re actively healing from surgery, have nerve damage or an existing injury, you’re wearing a cast or brace, or you’re pregnant, then talk to your doctor before seeking a massage therapist. Although it’s rare, massages that are poorly performed can sometimes cause increased pain, inflammation and other complications in high-risk patients. (16)


An effective maintenance program is based on the massage therapist's understanding of anatomy and kinesiology, combined with an expert knowledge of which muscles are used in a given sport and which are likely candidates for trouble. By zeroing in on particular muscle groups and working specific tissues, the sports massage therapist can help the athlete maintain or improve range of motion and muscle flexibility. The overall objective of a maintenance program is to help the athlete reach optimal performance through injury-free training.

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Bastian B, Jetten J, Hornsey MJ, Leknes S. The Positive Consequences of Pain: A Biopsychosocial Approach. Pers Soc Psychol Rev. 2014 Apr;18(3):256–279. PubMed #24727972.Bastian et al. write about “pain’s capacity to produce positive consequences, thereby decoupling the experience of pain from the experience of suffering” — pain’s silver linings, basically. BACK TO TEXT

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Find the right massage therapist. Look for a therapist who specifically identifies the massage type you’re interested in as part of their practice and background. If necessary, look for someone trained to treat a particular condition, such as sports injuries, fibromyalgia, arthritis, or pregnancy. Also check if the therapist is licensed or certified according to state requirements.
Deep tissue massage involves manipulation of the deep layers of tissue in the body, including the fascia and other supportive tissue that make up the muscles and joints. Compared to other popular massage techniques — including Swedish massage or acupressure, which tend to be lighter in pressure and can involve moving the body into certain positions — deep tissue massage is usually slower and firmer. (2)

A high attention to detail is important to be successful in sports massage. I also feel my professional communication with clients and other practitioners assists with this process. It’s vital to get all the necessary facts about the client and follow up with them after each session. I also feel it’s important that I have experience in endurance training and racing to help with the rapport with my clients.

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"Back before we started wearing shoes everywhere, we developed natural stimulus points from the ground [making direct contact] with our feet," Colin says. "By walking and getting that stimuli, we would relieve stress. We don't get that anymore. So the idea of reflexology is going back and mimicking that stimuli to specific points and feeling where that stress sits."


Another study compared the effects of foot reflexology, simple massage, and conversation on 130 patients who had undergone abdominal gynecologic surgery under full anesthesia. The patients were asked how they felt, and data were recorded on general condition, pain intensity, movement of the bowels, urination, and sleep, from the day before the operation until until the tenth day afterward. Simple massage turned out to be a relaxing, positive experience, whereas foot reflexology had various effects, some of which were negative. The researchers concluded that foot reflexology is not effective in acute, abdominal postsurgical situations in gynecology and can occasionally trigger abdominal pain [15].
People who suffer from the following conditions or disorders should consult a physician before participating in a sports massage: acute infectious disease; aneurysm; heavy bruising; cancer ; hernia; high blood pressure; inflammation due to tissue damage; osteoporosis ; phlebitis ; varicose veins ; and certain skin conditions. Individuals who are intoxicated are not good candidates for sports massage.
Good pain. In massage, there is a curious phenomenon widely known as “good pain.” It arises from a sensory contradiction between the sensitivity to pressure and the “instinctive” sense that the pressure is also a source of relief. So pressure can be an intense sensation that just feels right somehow. It’s strong, but it’s welcome. Good pains are usually dull and aching, and are often described as a “sweet” aching. The best good pain may be such a relief that “pain” isn’t even really the right word. 

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“Good pain” is at the heart of the pressure question: a strange, potent sensory paradox that many people actually seek out as the goal of therapy, consciously or unconciously. Either it isn’t literally painful (just intense), or it’s painful but desired anyway because of relief or belief: an actual biological relief or at least the belief that there is one. But it’s important to note that not all satisfying, relieving sensations are genuinely helpful (e.g. scratching a mosquito bite).
Before you and your partner book your appointment, be sure to brush up on your spa etiquette. For many, a couples massage may be your significant other’s first visit to the spa. And while a trip to the spa should be a relaxing experience, if it’s your first spa-going encounter, it can be anything but if you don’t know what to expect. To calm those nerves, note the following spa protocol tips: For many, nudity may very well be the most nerve-wracking aspect of spa-going. Bear in mind, though, that maintaining guest modesty is a key priority for most therapists in the U.S. Male or female therapist? It’s your call. Spas make every effort to accommodate guest wishes in this regard, but it’s recommended to make advance reservations, particularly during peak hours. Speak up (if you wish). Couples can feel free to converse during their massage, or stay silent. It’s entirely your preference. For more on Couples Massage, see our guide.

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AD 1779: Frenchman Pierre-Martial Cibot publishes ‘Notice du Cong-fou des Bonzes Tao-see' also known as "The Cong-Fou of the Tao-Tse", a French language summary of medical techniques used by Taoist priests. According to Joseph Needhan, Cibot's work "was intended to present the physicists and physicians of Europe with a sketch of a system of medical gymnastics which they might like to adopt—or if they found it at fault they might be stimulated to invent something better. This work has long been regarded as of cardinal importance in the history of physiotherapy because it almost certainly influenced the Swedish founder of the modern phase of the art, Per Hendrik Ling. Cibot had studied at least one Chinese book, but also got much from a Christian neophyte who had become expert in the subject before his conversion."[14]
Swedish and deep tissue massages are very similar. The primary difference is the level of pressure involved. If you’re looking for relaxation and relief from tense, tight muscles, Swedish massage is probably right for you. If you’re recovering from an injury, deep tissue massage can be a helpful part of your treatment plan. Feel free to ask questions before you book a massage and to communicate feedback to your therapist during a massage.
I am a science writer, former massage therapist, and I was the assistant editor at ScienceBasedMedicine.org for several years. I have had my share of injuries and pain challenges as a runner and ultimate player. My wife and I live in downtown Vancouver, Canada. See my full bio and qualifications, or my blog, Writerly. You might run into me on Facebook or Twitter. 

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